Growth of ready meals for the in-store market: From Baby Boomers to Generation Z

What makes a meal great? People do.

Foods with wide appeal become staples in our diets, so long as people clamor for it. Ready meals from the supermarket prepared foods departments stand at the forefront of this idea. Why? Because in one way or another, each generation’s eating trends demand a well-equipped prepared foods department with diverse offerings.

“Ready-made meals can help boomers curb their addiction to restaurant fare.”

Baby boomers – 1940s to 1960s

A 2010 Whole Foods survey revealed several emerging trends regarding how baby boomers eat – a majority of respondents cited cost as a major driver in their purchasing decisions, as well as avoiding eating out as often as they once did. Ready-made meals can help boomers curb their addiction to restaurant fare, satisfy their budget and take the hassle of cooking at home out of the equation.

Generation X – 1960s to 1980s

The 2012 Generation X Report from the Longitudinal Study of American Youth found a number of factors that point to one key characteristic about Generation Xers: They love preparing their own food. So, where do ready-made meals fit in? The study also showed that although only 9 percent of Generation X truly understands the significance of organic foods, there’s a noticeable willingness to learn. Moreover, Gen Xers don’t hold food company advertisements in the highest regard.

To that end, the one-on-one contact between customers and prepared food department staff can serve as a way to educate Generation X and convince them of the benefits of buying ready-made foods, even if the meals they buy may¬†only complement what they’re cooking up at home themselves.

Generation Y – 1980s to 2000

Commonly referred to as “millennials,” this generation is mostly comprised of younger adults, many of whom have young children, and as such, lack free time to cook regularly. According to Prepared Foods, this generation is also far more susceptible to unhealthy eating habits, leading to a 250 percent increase in the incidence of childhood obesity over its baby boomer predecessor.

Ready-made foods from the prepared food department of a Gen Yers local grocer can be a quick and healthy alternative to overly processed meals, helping this generation correct past eating faux pas and pass on nutritional appreciation in their kids.

Generation Z – 2000 and beyond

Post-millennials are living proof of the values instilled in them by their Gen X parents, according to an NPD Group study. Between 2003 and 2013, fresh food consumption in the U.S. has increased by more than 20 percent, a statistic driven primarily by the nation’s youngest eaters. Here again, the prepared food department flexes its culinary muscle by providing options for this fresh-obsessed generation.

Furthermore, Business Insider listed out all the fresh meals Generation Z loves the most, and frankly, it reads like your average prepared food department menu: salads, sandwiches, “heat and eat lunch/dinner entrees, side dish breads,” and “center plate proteins.”

No matter what generation consumers belong to, prepared foods serve up a slice of what they’re craving!